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Parkinson's Surgery: Risk and Reward for one local man

Stephanie Graham, Tim Meulemans

Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Parkinson's Surgery: Risk and Reward for one local man

CREATED Jan. 14, 2014

FOND DU LAC: Peter Wettstein of Fond du Lac was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease 5 years ago. He recalls, "At first I thought, 'So what'. I guess I didn't know much about it."

As Peter's symptoms worsened, the disease almost forced him to quit his job, but he fought back--with medication, a special keyboard, and by becoming bionic.

Peter points to his head, showing us where the electrodes were inserted, and a transmitter on his chest. He explains, "So they run the wiring up, you can kind of see it in the back of my head. It connects to the electrodes."

Surgeons at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College performed Deep Brain Stimulation. Doctors put an electrode deep in the brain, to reduce tremors. Dr. Peter Pahapill is a neurosurgeon. He explains, "Someone who has tremor... this abnormal circuit is all connected and going. You put that electrode in and turn it on, and the tremor stops. You've interrupted that evil circuit."

Doctors started doing the procedure 15 years ago, and say it's improved since then, but there are serious risks, like stroke, or bleeding of the brain,

"Any surgical procedure has risks, fortunately they're rare," Dr. Pahapill explains.

Unfortunately, DBS doesn't work for everyone. Doctors do a test in the office to determine if someone is a good candidate or not.

Peter had a pre-op screening. He was a good candidate, but implanting the device was up to him. "It's kind of a risk reward decision because it's scary. Let me tell ya... doctors going into your brain."

He says that risk was worth it. Since the operation, Peter's symptoms have weakened. He's gotten his life back. Most importantly, he's been able to work.

"I feel I'm productive. I'm not ready to retire. I like working with people. I like helping them out," Peter beams.

DBS isn't permanent, but can give someone with Parkinson's about 6 to 7 years of normalcy. The procedure also has the potential to treat other diseases--like Alzheimer's, Depression, Addiction and even Anorexia. 

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